For some, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms are like the modern day diary. They can be used to document what you did that day, how you’re feeling and your opinions on the hot topic currently trending. While it’s fine to give your friends a glimpse into your daily life, when it comes to a case, what you say and post can hurt you.
Repeatedly in criminal cases, family court cases, personal injury cases and pretty much any other type of case, social media is being used as a tool to help prove or, in some cases, disprove claims. In my practice, what a person has posted on social media will come up in almost every case. Not only will the content of the posts be brought to light, but oftentimes, the opposing side will ask for the social media logins and passwords as well.
Ultimately, the Court may decide whether or not your login and password will have to be turned over, but before it even gets to this point, you want to make sure you’re being responsible on social media.
It’s important to make your social media profiles private. Even if you don’t have a pending case, making social media public allows anyone and everyone to have access to what you’re posting. This can come back to bite you not only in the context of a case, but at your job, volunteer positions or other areas of your life. That’s why it’s smart to err on the side of having your social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram private. Depending on how you set up the privacy settings, it may not hide every photo or post from the public, but the more you can keep private instead of public, the better.
As they say in the law when an accused is read their Miranda warnings, “anything you say can and will be used against you,” this rings true in the area of posts on social media as well. The way posted photos are typically used is when an injured person says “I can’t go skiing due to my knee injury,” then there’s a photo from Aspen, Colorado going up the ski lift; or “The scar on my stomach makes me embarrassed to wear a bathing suit during summer,” yet there’s a photo from a recent beach trip with the scar fully visible, with a big smile on the person’s face; or “I’m just so upset all the time, I barely can go outside and enjoy myself,” but there’s a post about how wonderful it is to be outside and how much they’re loving life. These contradictions can tremendously hurt a person’s case.
In the context of a criminal case, if you have charges filed against you for terroristic threats and you post that “someone is going to get what’s coming to them,” this can be used against you at a later time. The above are just a few examples, but they give you an idea of how your posts can get you in trouble.
If you don’t have a pending case, you may think, what’s the big deal? It’s my page and I can post what I want and it’s my outlet to vent when I need to. That’s understandable, but know that if there’s a time where someone wants to use something against you…if you’re ever a witness in a case, criminal charges are brought against you, you get sued for some reason, or are involved in a custody dispute…you can bet that the opposing side will be scouring your social media pages to find whatever they can to use in the case.
Putting things in writing, even if it’s later deleted, can always come back to bite you. Use caution and think before posting, “is this something I’d want my boss, my mom or a jury that’s deciding my fate to see?” If not, then find another way to vent and don’t make that post or publish that picture.